Last night, Beyonce surprised football player Colin Kaepernick when she showed up to present him with the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award at the annual Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Award Show, and made an important point that despite our nation's deep history with slavery and black oppresion, protesting racism is not protesting America. "It's been said that racism is so American, that when we protest racism, some assume we are protesting America," she said.
The Muhammad Ali Legacy Award goes to athletes who use their platform for change, and the former 49ers player has been thrust into the activism spotlight after kneeling during the national anthem, which plays before football events, to bring awareness to police brutality, especially towards the black community.
Over time, more and more players—at the professional, college, and high school level—began kneeling in solidarity with Kaepernick. The movement continues to gain as much momentum as it does controversy. Those opposed to the protest claim it disrespects our flag, and the men and women who die defending it.
"Let's be very clear. Colin has always been very respectful of the individuals who selflessly serve and protect our country and our communities and our families. His message is solely focused on social injustice for historically disenfranchised people. Let's not get that mistaken," clarified Beyoncé, who sparked her own football controversy with her Black Panther-inspired Super Bowl performance just last year.
Kaepernick made clear in his acceptance speech that his activism is for others: “I say this as a person who receives credit for using my platform to protest systemic oppression, racialized injustice, and the dire consequences of anti-blackness in America. I accept this award not for myself, but on behalf of the people. Because if it were not for my love of the people, I would not have protested. And if it was not for the support from the people, I would not be on this stage today. With or without the N.F.L.’s platform, I will continue to work for the people because my platform is the people.”